Twenty European member states have decided to establish a new European public prosecutor's office in a bid to speed up the fight against budget fraud.
The European Parliament will now have to give its consent to the plan. Once in place, the independent EU public prosecutor will be given the power to investigate and prosecute criminal cases affecting the EU budget, such as corruption or fraud with EU funds, or cross-border VAT fraud.
Every year at least €50bn of revenues from VAT are lost for national budgets all over Europe through cross-border fraud. Transnational organised crime is making billions in profit by evading national rules and escaping criminal prosecution.
Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger, in charge of budget and human resources, said: "We are strengthening our efforts in protecting taxpayers' money by ensuring a European approach to the criminal investigation and prosecution of criminal offences affecting the Union budget.”
The European public prosecutor's office will act in the interest of the EU, but independently and will not seek nor take instructions from EU institutions or national authorities. The office will be able to act quickly across borders without the need for lengthy judicial cooperation proceedings, bringing actions against criminals directly in front of national courts.
"We have worked hard to bring as many member states as possible on board and I am very glad that we now have 20 founding members of the European public prosecutor. This is a big success”, said Věra Jourová, EU commissioner for justice, consumers and gender equality.
“The European public prosecutor's office will complement the important work of Eurojust, the EU criminal justice agency, allowing it to dedicate more resources to the fight against terrorism, human trafficking or other crimes,” Jourová, added.